In­dian IT’s US Hir­ing Prob­lem STEMs from a Tal­ent Crunch

‘Hire Amer­i­can’ plan hit by a dearth of lo­cal tal­ent com­plet­ing science, tech, en­gi­neer­ing or math cour­ses in US uni­ver­si­ties

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Prachi.Verma@ times­group.com

New Delhi: In­dian tech­nol­ogy ser­vices com­pa­nies re­spond­ing in earnest to President Don­ald Trump’s “Hire Amer­i­can” rhetoric are fac­ing a prob­lem they can’t fix on their own: a dearth of lo­cal tech tal­ent on US cam­puses.

Tata Con­sul­tancy Ser­vices, In­fosys, Wipro and oth­ers are al­ready at work to hire more Amer­i­cans, as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is mov­ing to tighten a work-visa pro­gramme they de­pend heav­ily on to send In­dian en­gi­neers to work on projects at client lo­ca­tions in the US. The po­ten­tial H-1B visa curb has emerged as the gravest threat in re­cent times to In­dian tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, which get as much as 60% of their rev­enue from the US.

In In­dia, these com­pa­nies hire fresh en­gi­neer­ing and science grad­u­ates in hordes and train them in writ­ing soft­ware codes. It isn’t easy to repli­cate the strat­egy in the US. Be­sides the higher cost in­volved, a ma­jor­ity of stu­dents for STEM (science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics) cour­ses in US in­crease cam­pus hir­ing in the US but face a dearth of Amer­i­can tal­ent there

pop­u­la­tion in the US-based STEM (science, tech, engg and math) cour­ses is non-Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties is for­eign­ers — pri­mar­ily Chi­nese or In­di­ans — and not Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to soft­ware in­dus­try association Nass­com and HR heads of IT com­pa­nies. “The prob­lem is on the sup­ply side, a con­straint faced by all com­pa­nies,” said Shiven­dra Singh, vice-president of global trade de­vel­op­ment at Nass­com. To over­come this, com­pa­nies are adopt­ing a cal­i­brated strat­egy, of hir­ing lo­cally and bridg­ing the skills gap by tak­ing work­ers from In­dia on non-im­mi­grant visas, in­clud­ing H-1Bs, he said. The US pro­duces 237,826 grad­u­ates a year in the space of en­gi­neer­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion, show data re­leased by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in 2015. The US Depart­ment of La­bor es­ti­mates that there will be about 2.4 mil­lion un­filled STEM jobs by 2018, with more than 50% of these in IT-re­lated fields. About 80% of In­dian stu­dents in the US are in STEM fields, but un­der a new Bill moved in US Congress, work visas will be hard to come by.

If the US wants more IT jobs to go to Amer­i­cans, it has to start from within by first pro­duc­ing enough skilled pro­fes­sion­als, said an im­mi­gra­tion ex­pert.

“It is un­fair to pe­nalise com­pa­nies for hir­ing for­eign H-1B pro­fes­sional work­ers,” said Farhan Sethna, an im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney in the US. “If Congress doesn’t want for­eign work­ers, fix the US first. En­cour­age math and science, not just pro­fes­sional sports.”

For IT com­pa­nies, hir­ing more Amer­i­cans will dent the mar­gins they have fat­tened up by send­ing cheaper In­dian en­gi­neers on short du­ra­tions to carry out projects of large clients at US lo­ca­tions. This is an area that Trump is tar­get­ing as well. The Bill in­tro­duced in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives last month pro­poses to dou­ble the min­i­mum wages un­der H-1B visa pro­gramme, mak­ing it prac­ti­cally non­vi­able for for­eign com­pa­nies to send large num­bers of skilled em­ploy­ees to the US.

Nev­er­the­less, IT ser­vices com­pa­nies like In­fosys, TCS, Wipro and HCL Tech­nolo­gies are go­ing ahead with their hir­ing plans in the US since they can’t risk los­ing busi­nesses in their big­gest mar­ket, even as they are also lob­by­ing hard against the leg­is­la­tion.

“Now, the pres­sure on In­dian IT com­pa­nies like ours is to hire more lo­cal US tal­ent. But there is a huge sup­ply-de­mand gap in the US as far as tech tal­ent is con­cerned,” said an ex­ec­u­tive at In­fosys who didn’t want to be named. In­fosys is mak­ing in­roads on US cam­puses through com­pe­ti­tions and of­fer­ing in­tern­ship pro­grammes.

Wipro, too, has adopted a sim­i­lar strat­egy. “Wipro is tak­ing all mea­sures to grab the top tal­ent at cam­puses in the US,” a spokesper­son told ET.

NASS­COM DEL­E­GA­TION

Mean­while, a del­e­ga­tion of IT com­pa­nies led by Nass­com is soon head­ing to the US to smoothen out the re­la­tions be­tween In­dian and US IT in­dus­try. For­mer CEO of HCL Tech­nolo­gies, Vi­neet Na­yar, how­ever, has a dif­fer­ent take on the is­sue. “If in In­dia we can train thou­sands of non-tech grad­u­ates to code in 90 days, the same can be done in the US,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.